My youngest daughter recently fell and hurt her hand and what immediately ensued was her crying that cry that told me that even though she was going to be fine and we weren’t looking at an ER trip, she had really hurt herself and the only thing that was going to fix it was some snuggle time in my lap. I was doing some computer work but forgot all about it and went into auto-Mommy mode, a state that I know all you mamas are familiar with. “Come here and let mama kiss it and make it all better, Baby”, I told her. she climbed up in my lap and got some mama snuggles, I kissed her hand over and over and all was immediately right in her world again. In an instant, I snapped straight out of Mommy mode and I had one of those moments where some auto-piloted task that has been previously taken for granted suddenly becomes very, very profound.
It hit me like a ton of bricks.
Oxytocin. Much googling ensued and the information I turned up was exactly what I expected it to be. I already understood the power of oxytocin for laboring women and the oxytocin “high” that happens during many intimate situations like breastfeeding, childbirth and even love-making but this oxytocin release had done something for my baby that I’d never thought about before. It had helped to reduce her pain in a very real and tangible way that had offered her almost immediate relief.
Oxytocin, in layman’s terms, is known as the “love hormone”. It’s released in our bodies anytime we have a pleasant encounter including skin-to-skin contact with another person. It’s also the primary hormone that controls labor and childbirth and that helps to establish the bond between a mother and her child in the postpartum period. There are so many postive effects that happen as the result of an oxytocin release that they’re almost to numerous to list. For today, though, I want to talk about it in regards to pain relief:
“Amazingly, oxytocin can also be used to heal wounds (through its anti-inflammatory properties). Studies have also shown that a rise in oxytocin levels can relieve pain — everything from headaches, cramps and overall body aches.”
If oxytocin and pain were WWE fighters, oxytocin would be Alberto Del Rio and pain would be some loser WWE fighter that you’ve never heard of. (Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find a list of lowest ranked WWE fighters, by the way? Let me just tell you it’s hard. VERY hard. Even google doesn’t know. It must be some industry-guarded secret.)
Oxytocin is one of the hormones that are responsible for our monogamous nature as humans. When oxytocin is released, chemical pathways are formed in the brain which are similar to those that drug addicts form. In essence, oxytocin creates a state of “addiction” and over time, bonds us chemically to the people who are involved with the release of the hormone. This process is otherwise known as “falling in love”. Our brains are hardwired to pair-bonding as the result of this amazing stuff.
For more information on the amazing abilities of oxytocin, check this out:
Oxytocin, in regards to the story I told at the start of this blog post , was at work as I snuggled my baby girl and comforted her after she hurt herself. I’m not sure I’ve ever quite heard it talked about in this way, but as mothers, we can literally “kiss and make better” our children when they’re hurting. Kissing and snuggling them causes an oxytocin release in us and them and oxytocin is linked to an increase in pain thresholds. Of course (and I hope I’m just paying lip service here and not actually surprising anybody with this), I’m not suggesting physical contact in the absence of necessary medical treatment. If your kid has fallen and sliced open his noggin, hugging them won’t make a fine and dandy substitute for heading up to the ER and getting sewn back together. It might just be one of those tools we can stash away in our mommy tool boxes for use while we wait, though.
Mamas, your bodies are the result some of the pretty amazing evolutionary twists and some of their abilities achieve almost superhero status. Any of you who have ever used nursing your baby as a way to calm them down after a minor accident has seen the beneficial effects and the healing powers of oxytocin first hand. Keep those in mind as you snatch up your sweet little ones up the next time one of them encounters a minor bump and use it to your advantage – even if they do deserve it because the were doing the exact thing you’ve told them a hundred times would hurt them for the hundred and first time!
WMC Doula, Amy Jones
Amy is one of WMC’s Founding Mothers with four children of her own; her oldest graduated high school and her youngest started Kindergarten in 2014. She’s currently rocking Southeast Texas as Founder, Chairman and Peer Counselor with the Beaumont Breastfeeding Coalition, a Breastfeeding Counselor with Breastfeeding USA, and waiting on the final exam to be the only Certified Professional Midwife in the Beaumont area and preparing for her upcoming role as a pregnancy surrogate. She is a DONA-trained birth and postpartum doula, welcoming over 100 babies into the world over the last few years.